When Sophia Howard landed at Sarasota-Bradenton (Florida) International Airport a few weeks ago, she exclaimed, “Oh my God, this is Nelly Korda’s house!
Nelly took a hit.
Howard, 14, flew to Florida from Hudsonville, Michigan to meet his idols, Nelly and Jessica Korda, as part of Dream On 3, a nonprofit based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Howard, who was born without a right hand, caught up with the American stars at the Concession Golf Club for a special workout.
As the trio began to talk, the Kordas realized Howard lived close to this week’s Meijer LPGA Classic and invited her to their practice session on Tuesday. The courageous Howard described the whole experience as surreal. The Kordas were reminded why they fell in love with the game in the first place.
“The longer you stay here, you forget how cool it is,” Jessica said. “Seeing it from someone else’s point of view is really special.”
Howard said she and her father went to an LPGA event about a year ago and saw Jessica Korda land an impressive shot. The cameras then moved on to Nelly, who pulled off something so memorable. Howard, who also plays softball, immediately turned to Google for more information.
A rising rookie, Howard competes in adapted junior tournaments in his area and said high school golf begins on August 9.
“I might look different,” Howard said, “but I think I’m just another average person. I go out and play golf like everyone else (does) and I never leave not that to stop me. Just go out and kill him. “
Sophia Howard hits bullets at the Concession range. (Emby Taylor Photography)
Nelly said having Howard at the Meijer makes her appreciate what she does for a living even more. The two sisters also left extremely impressed with Howard’s swing. They mostly progressed out of the bunker.
“I think that’s also what we missed,” Jessica said, “not having fans or kids week after week. Maybe I took that a little bit for granted. But it was. something that I have always loved to see. I loved being able to interact with the kids and give them a memory that they will keep for a while or something that they might come back to next year and be able to see them after that.
The Kordas, of course, could turn to their parents, Petr and Regina, two world-class tennis players, for a glimpse into the life of a professional athlete. But if they could have spent time with other sports stars in their childhood, like Howard did with them, who would they choose?
“I love Roger, Nadal, Tiger,” Nelly said. “I know Jess would say Lindsay Vonn.”
Nelly and Jessica are both LPGA winners this season and able to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics. Nelly is currently the highest ranked American in 4th place and Jessica in 13th. Only four Americans can qualify to compete, and all must be placed in the top 15. Two events remain before the qualifying period ends on June 28.
While they don’t have their parents in Tokyo to cheer them on due to COVID-19, they will likely hear from Howard on their new text feed.
“She’s very brave and very happy,” Nelly said, “definitely rubs you off.”